When I heard Judge Allison D. Burroughs announce last Tuesday that the two sides in the lawsuit over the new international-student policy had come to an agreement — and that agreement was full capitulation by the Trump administration — I was in shock.
Now that I’ve had time to digest it all, I have two big takeaways, one encouraging, the other troubling.
Let’s take the negative first: Although the policy on remote learning was repealed, its impact can’t be fully undone. International students, and their families, won’t soon forget that the U.S. government gave them a cruel choice:
abruptly uproot and travel home in the midst of a pandemic or return to campus, no matter the health risks. As I wrote in the Chronicle
, the policy is the latest in a series of measures under the Trump administration that have been unfriendly to international students, reinforcing the impression that they are unwelcome here.
Indeed, rather than exuberance, many students I’ve spoken with viewed the rollback with skepticism, wondering when the next shoe would drop. Relief was tempered by wariness.
“I want to be excited,” one student, an engineering major from India, told me, “but I don’t dare to be.” Like so many international students I talk to these days, he asked me not to use his name, fearful that it could in some way jeopardize his student-visa status.
The policy could contribute to the erosion of America’s standing with students worldwide. But as a more immediate matter, the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to revert to earlier student-visa guidance, and a subsequent FAQ it issued, created new confusion
, most critically around the issue of new international students
. Some interpreted the guidelines to mean that new students are not covered by the more-flexible policy and must abide by longstanding rules, which limit international students to just one online class a semester. Others suggested they might not be granted visas at all. Government officials did little to clear up the matter, offering conflicting advice.